Citrix XenDesktop 4 adds features, changes licence

Citrix has bundled many new features into its new virtual desktop system, but some users say the licence changes hurt
Written by Manek Dubash, Contributor and  Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Citrix has updated its XenDesktop product, adding over 70 new features, and boosting performance, security and readiness for enterprise-wide deployments.

It has also made significant changes to its licensing structure, leading some users to predict large increases in deployment costs.

The new XenDesktop 4, launched on Tuesday, delivers desktops as an on-demand service to any client capable of running Citrix's thin-client code, with a range of delivery options.

Task workers who use a common set of applications can be served by a shared, server-based virtual desktop, for example, while office workers who need more personalised desktops can use hosted virtual machines via a VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) model. Power users running high-end applications can be served by blade PCs in the datacentre, too.

Citrix has upgraded its multimedia delivery HDX technology for XenDesktop, with enhancements for multimedia content, real-time collaboration, USB peripherals and 3D graphics. HDX is an upgrade for the company's long-established ICA protocol, which transfers screen updates to end-user desktops from a centralised Citrix server.

The company said HDX now uses "up to 90 percent less bandwidth than alternative solutions" and fully supports Flash, among other streaming media protocols.

XenDesktop 4 includes a copy of Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor and also supports Citrix XenServer, VMware ESX and vSphere. Citrix said XenDesktop 4 is the only virtual desktop system to support vSphere, VMware's cloud and virtualisation services support platform.

VMware's own VMware View virtual desktop management system is not yet compatible with vSphere, although that is promised by the end of the year. VMware did not return a call for further information on this timescale.

Citrix is encouraging existing XenApp customers to upgrade to XenDesktop 4 by offering  them a trade-in: they can exchange their XenApp user licences for twice the number of XenDesktop 4 user licences.

However, the company has also changed its licence model with the upgrade, switching from charging per client to charging per named user. One poster on Citrix's community blog predicted that the shift would cause a 32-fold increase in his costs, comparing XenDesktop 3 to XenDesktop 4.

"With 1,000 lab computers but 28,000 unique users (a little more than that, actually), XD3 would have cost, for the Advanced Edition, 195 x 1000 = $195,000," said Mike Stanley, in a post discussing the provision of computing in an American educational environment.

"With those same 1,000 lab computers and only doing OS Streaming, so only ever (for now anyway) 1,000 possible concurrent users, but paying for XD4 licenses on a per user basis, the Enterprise Edition (minimum required to do OS Streaming) would cost 225 x 28,0000 = $6,300,000."

Stanley concluded: "Our state, like most others, is broke. A 32x price increase means we can't buy your product."

XenDesktop 4 is scheduled for release on 16 November, licensed in three editions: Standard, $75 (£47) per user; Enterprise, $225 per user; and Platinum, $350 per user.

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